Day 395 – Ljubljana, Slovenia 🇸🇮 Marathon 112
I met the President of Slovenia today, the brilliant Mr Borut Pahor.
As I drew back the curtains of my huge suite in my glorious hotel, the warm light hit my face, my pupils reacting slowly to the sun – BLUE SKY. For the first time in a long time I had bright, uninterrupted blue sky splattering my face. Finally not a grey day, and even a little warmth.
Today was like many other days of my life recently – and by that I mean full, bursting, exhausting, joyful and brilliant. It’s strange to think how full-on my life is sometimes. I meet new people every three days, I sleep in a new bed, I run in a strange place, and it’s very easy to get complacent. I am lucky beyond words. The people, as always, made today great.
A big thanks to my team, the British Embassy and all those responsible for today. I met with the British Ambassador and some media before heading out to the run. So many people made today memorable. Mr President Borut Pahor, thanks for taking the time to visit me. Good luck in the Split Marathon. I hope your security can keep up with you. It was great to chat while running.
I’d like to mention two people in particular – Urban and Jasmine. Urban organised a route and Jasmine cycled in support. This husband-and-wife duo are quite the team – four children, both authors and running coaches, they have an amazing life here in the sleepy town of Ljubljana. After the run they made me a tasty and nutritious dinner of soup, salads and pretty much a whole table of nibbles and dips, which were some of the healthiest things I’ve ever eaten. Not an exaggeration. We spoke briefly about their work and life. Jasmine has a book published about a brilliant 86-year-old woman. Living in this part of the world and being 86, she has some fascinating tales, and Jasmine does a fab job at explaining the brief history and context behind this woman’s complicated and magical life.
The route was close to a perfect circle compared to most of my messy make-it-up-as-I-go-along routes. Thanks Urban for the support, conversation and great sunny run.
Day 396 – Ljubljana, Slovenia 🇸🇮 to Pristina, Kosovo 🇽🇰
The hotel of my dreams, another airport and catching up with old friends in Kosovo.
Today is in two parts and it involves yet more thank you’s.
ONE! Thanking the staff and owners of the Antiq Hotel and Spa. I’m fortunate enough to have been given an extended stay here once I finish my trip, to continue writing my book and ideally to finish it. This hotel is central, quiet and spacious. I love to write, but it’s sometimes hard to get in the zone in crowded or cramped spaces. It’s like my brain needs space. I was given a glorious suite on the top floor with two double bedrooms and a living area that’s just perfect for being creative. I put on some classical music and relaxed into my many emails early this morning before a midday checkout to country number 113, Kosovo. As I left they asked me to sign a photo of myself for their wall – so kind!
TWO! I arrived in Kosovo and was met by a guy called Veton. Back in 2017 I met Veton at an Adidas gig at Silverstone Circuit. I explained my story and the trip I had planned; he said he was from Kosovo and that he’d help. Two years later and without speaking in between, not only did he meet me at the airport but he also organised everything for my stay.
I’ve just got in from the X Trailers running club’s annual get-together. They run three times a week, but gathered tonight to prep for the year ahead. Veton and Dardan had arranged for me to speak at their event tonight. A little bit of media after, some photos and conversations, I then went to meet the British Ambassador and his family – nice to meet you Rory. Apparently you’re running with us tomorrow morning. I hope you can keep up…
The running club was fab – I was spoilt with gifts of clothes and honorary membership. Thanks guys and girls. I’ll see some of you out early tomorrow for a run.
Day 397 – Pristina, Kosovo 🇽🇰 Marathon 113
A 30-mile marathon, being presented with a military coin, and a huge dinner – what a day! I can’t believe I’m already 113 countries into this journey, and I’m fast approaching 400 days. Ahhh, slow down, I can’t remember it all.
I was up for an 8.45am start today, which inevitably means 9.15am. As I hauled my legs from a restful horizontal position to vertical, my whole body was tired and desperately wanting to stay in bed. Nearly 400 days of exhaustion doesn’t get any easier. My feet cracked and creeked as I stood up, I hop-scotched my way through my messy clothes on the floor, reached for the light and went for a quick morning wee.
We started and finished at the Newborn Monument (meaning newborn… obviously… although it actually reads NEW1ORN…). After interviews, some pre-race photos and lots of shaking hands and introductions, I was met by an enthusiastic bunch of about ten. Rory, the British Ambassador, was one of them, along with some speedy runners, less speedy runners and an extraordinary mountaineer, who is unbelievably modest and a genuine saint. Everyone, please tag yourselves. And a special shout-out to Xhavit for some really moving chats about life during the recent war. What a life you have had. I will be sharing your tales with my family for years to come. That’s the beauty of running. It’s just a great excuse for a long chat without spending a fortune in a coffee shop. I just spend my money on 250 flights.
The route was designed by the running club and took in as many of the sights as possible – a circle round the city, through villages, past barking dogs, passed by fast cars, busy roads, quiet roads, some hills, a lake, and some more hills. It was a good mix. Rory, thanks for running the first bit with us.
The only issue with today was the cold, and so a runner called Quendresa and I took off about half way and got some quick miles in to keep warm. She’s super-speedy, and before we knew it we’d run 10 miles at about a 6.30-minute mile pace and were miles away. We ended up doubling back and adding 6 miles to our day. It was worth it to keep warm.
Day 398 – Pristina, Kosovo 🇽🇰
Mileniumi i Tretë school visit – an honour.
I spent most of the morning, from sunrise till midday, catching up on work and emails – the usual, really, backing up photos etc. The afternoon, however, was a delight. I had several hours to meet and chat with the pupils of Years 10 and 11 at Mileniumi i Tretë school. These young adults were engaging and hugely intelligent. This school has a huge pool of bright and charming people. The questions were spot on – good work guys. Loved meeting you all today.
I spoke about my journey so far, showed some videos and photos, and answered questions. It was very enjoyable and I hope to see them all again. A special thanks to the faculty and the students who made my card and my welcome banner. After the talk and several selfies with the class I was interviewed again for local TV and then presented with an engraved notebook, along with a collection of other bits and pieces from the school. Now to try and fit everything in my travel bag. Hmmm. Thank you. So kind everyone.
I love speaking – I really hope I am doing Kev’s teachings justice. I’m not just standing in front of a class and talking about cancer, or how I’m having a great time running around the world, or that I’m tired… the message I’m sharing is from Kev, to me, and now from me to them. I hope the message is being heard.
THE MESSAGE IS THIS:
1 Have the courage to follow your dreams.
2 Don’t wait for something to happen in your life to spark a change – the time is now.
3 Be grateful for today – you have 86,400 seconds to make your dreams come true.
4 And finally, live on our planet with the knowledge that we’re so incredibly privileged, even when we may feel otherwise.
I’m very much looking forward to my UK and Europe speaking tour, which begins two months after I finish, in January 2020. More info to follow shortly.
If you can afford £2, please donate to Prostate Cancer UK by texting ‘NRTW89 £2’ to 70070. Everything goes via JustGiving to Prostate Cancer UK to help reach my target of £250,000. Thank you.
Day 399 – Pristina, Kosovo 🇽🇰 to Skopje, Macedonia 🇲🇰
The 2am journey that turned into an eight-hour headache.
I got into bed three hours before I was due to leave Kosovo this morning. I was invited to attend a dinner with the British Ambassador along with some of his friends and family. Great conversation, and really interesting to get to know everyone. The food was fab too. Thanks Rory.
Fun it was, I then had to wake up at 1.30am and frantically pack to be ready to leave. Thanks to my brilliant friend Veton he had arranged an alternative to flying. He was taking his mum to the airport early in the morning and kindly offered to take me the rest of the way. The journey was easy for me, I was asleep more or less the whole way… but then the fun started.
We reached the border and had a potential issue. The car documents weren’t in the car… or were they? We turned around, and turned the car upside down (not literally, obviously), and eventually the papers appeared in a secret never-before-seen compartment. Problem one overcome, we continued on to the hotel. I had informed the team I’d be arriving at a silly time of day, but still, the hotel was deserted and not a sole in sight. It’s now 4am. Obviously some communication mix-up.
All I could do was wait, but not outside. It was 2°C and freezing… Veton had to dash back home for a working day, and so I went in search of somewhere warm, or just indoors.
The Holiday Inn provided me with safe refuge, and for four hours I slept on their lobby sofa while the kind reception staff called my hotel every 15 minutes or so. The sun had risen before I was finally able to get to bed. You may be thinking why didn’t I just stay at the Holiday Inn? Money is tight, and every penny counts – the Hotel Astera was providing me with three nights for free. Just a shame I turned up at the wrong time.
My plan was to run today; I didn’t. I slept. This bed, in which I am currently warm and snuggly, was worth the wait. I will run tomorrow. Luckily I have an extra day here. And so now, as I write this, a giant pizza box holding only crumbs lies on my lap. I’m stuffed.
Day 400 – Skopje, Macedonia 🇲🇰 Marathon 114
400 days, 114 countries and 114 marathons COMPLETE, just 275 days and 82 marathons to go…
Here’s the list of the countries I’ve completed in the last 400 days. This expedition is tough, but when I look back at the photos, or get a text from friends in far-flung places, this journey has already been so much more than I was expecting! Thank you everyone!
Dominican Republic 🇩🇴
Trinidad and Tobago 🇹🇹
Saint Lucia 🇱🇨
Saint Kitts and Nevis 🇰🇳
Antigua and Barbuda 🇦🇬
El Salvador 🇸🇻
Costa Rica 🇨🇷
North Korea 🇰🇵
Ivory Coast 🇨🇮
Sierra Leone 🇸🇱
Burkina Faso 🇧🇫
Equatorial Guinea 🇬🇶
Sao Tome & Principe 🇸🇹
South Africa 🇿🇦
San Marino 🇸🇲
Czech Republic 🇨🇿
Bosnia Herzegovina 🇧🇦
Please donate to @prostatecanceruk See the LINK IN MY BIO!
Day 401 – Skojpe, Macedonia 🇲🇰
Welcome to the pants party!
For world cancer day I thought I’d post this photo of me in my doughnut pants. More and more men need to start talking about Prostate Cancer – maybe me looking like a complete idiot will get your attention.
This photo was taken shortly before the beautiful peaceful sinkhole was commandeered by octogenarians in Oman. They were all lovely. Some American, some German, some Finnish, but all infirm and needing assistance getting in and out of the pool. For some reason I was their leaning pole. More than happy to help, but come on, I’m in my pants. My own fault for not travelling with swim shorts on this leg of the journey.
Let’s talk about Prostate Cancer. So if you didn’t know by now, this expedition is all to support my dear friend Kev. Kev has prostate cancer, and was given as little as two years to live. I think about him every day without fail.
The biggest problem I have come across with prostate cancer is that men don’t get themselves checked regularly, or even at all. If you’re over 40, go and see your GP. They can offer you a PSA test. If you think you’re better off not knowing, or you feel a bit embarrassed, remember the reality is that if you don’t get tested and you do have prostate cancer, it’s likely to kill you if it’s caught late. Get checked.
So what is the PSA test? It’s a blood test that measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein produced by normal cells in the prostate and also by prostate cancer cells. It’s normal to have a small amount of PSA in your blood, and the amount rises as you get older and your prostate gets bigger. A raised PSA level may suggest you have a problem with your prostate.
Every year over 11,000 men die from prostate cancer in the UK. Please share this message. GET CHECKED.
Tomorrow I continue my quest with a double flight to country number 115.
Day 402 – Skojpe, Macedonia 🇲🇰🇲🇰 to Tbilisi, Georgia 🇬🇪 via Istanbul, Turkey 🇹🇷
Tiny portals of plane life.
I’m in the window seat today. As this 737 hurtles through the air at speeds I don’t understand, the world outside feels utterly still and calm. I often have time to reflect on flights, especially when it’s an empty flight or it’s a long-haul overnight flight. There’s something about it that’s very relaxing; I think it’s to do with being removed from the world for a while. I’m in a small metal cylinder with no sense of time or space. I’ve always felt relaxed on planes. Weird, really, considering there’s two sets of spinning blades just a few feet from me, and I’m thousands of feet in the air without any understanding of how it’s happening. Fascinating.
I have my nose pressed up against the double thick plastic portal. I peer to the world below as we start our descent back to reality. I feel more like Tim Peake than I ever have before. The surface of the moon below is, of course, not the moon, but it looks very much like one. The large rolling peaks of the mountains are covered in shades of white. The clouds are fluffy and seem dense and full. The world is white, clean, almost blue.
I’m approaching my 200th flight of the expedition and recently I’ve been thinking of the end. I don’t want this magical journey to end at all – there are too many great adventures still to be had. And yet, my body needs a rest. I have to start to get my head around the paradox of feeling so scarily close to the end and also so far from the end.
All of my flights, food, travel and various bits and pieces are 100% carbon offset. A brilliant company called Natural Capital Partners has helped me out big time. These guys and girls do the carbon offsetting for big international companies, and have been able to sponsor me. We have four projects around the world to neutralise all 45 tonnes of carbon equivalent.
So goodnight world, it’s late and I’m up early to explore this new city. Hello Tbilisi.
British Endurance Athlete | Motivational Speaker | Adventurer
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